Minnesota must grow its way out of the recession

Opinion

President Barack Obama takes office at a time when the obstacles facing our country and our state are very real and many. In Minnesota, my colleagues and I started work this legislative session facing a projected $5 billion budget deficit for 2010 through 2011. Economists predict the state will shed 77,000 jobs this year, and unemployment could hit 9 percent in 2009. Our number 1 priority is to balance the state’s budget.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty delivered his state of the state address this month, and I was concerned by what I heard. At a time when more Minnesotans are being pushed to the margins every day and are looking to their elected leaders for solutions to this economic crisis, Gov. Pawlenty failed to deliver a detailed plan of recovery. Instead, he pledged to cut the corporate tax rate in half. Tax collection has slowed to almost a trickle as more people are unemployed and more businesses have shuttered the doors. Now is not the time to reward business with an unprecedented tax cut. Our state is in a financial hole and the first thing to do is to stop digging. Gov. Pawlenty’s solution is to pass out more shovels.

I held two town hall meetings in the district last month, and it is clear that residents share the same concerns I do about where our state is headed. You have told me you support sales and gas tax increases as a way to increase state revenue, and that the state needs to create more green jobs. These are very good ideas, and there are more. I serve on the state’s Green Jobs Task Force. There are opportunities for the state to prosper in this changing economy and to put more Minnesotans back to work, but it will require cooperation and a commitment from both parties.

Rebuilding the economy will take work, and there is no easy solution. It will require real introspection and critical thought to get the job done by both parties. But it is essential that we succeed both in this session to balance the budget and to lay the groundwork for a long-term recovery.

It is time to return Minnesota to its prominent place in the nation, as a leader in job growth and innovation. To do so, we must invest in new industries and retrain the workers who have lost their jobs. Minnesota must be prepared to partner with the federal government to take advantage of the stimulus plan the Obama Administration pledged.

Next, lawmakers need to take a hard look at the Governor’s budget and find areas to make cuts. If a program is not working it cannot continue, but we must provide the same high quality services like public education and safe streets that Minnesotans expect.

And finally, the state needs to explore new ways to collect revenue and to enhance the revenue-generating programs we have. We have to grow our way out of this recession, and it will take some time.

Make no mistake, this legislative session will be one of great challenges, and with those challenges will come opportunities. As always, I welcome your input and suggestions; feel free to contact me with any concerns. I have set up a survey on my website. (Visit www.house.leg.state.mn.us and search “Davnie”; the survey is under latest news items). I encourage you to fill it out and share your thoughts on the state’s priorities for this session.

last revised: January 29, 2009